If you’re stuck indoors, some of the best games you can play now are those that have large, attractive environments where you can really immerse yourself at your own pace. If you have an itch, the Spirit of the North can be a scratch.
Spirit of the North is a product of the American wealth developer Infuse Studio and Epic Games’ infamous MegaGrant. This is a third person puzzle game in which you take control of a charming red fox while exploring a long forgotten Icelandic civilization. On a joyous journey across the tundra, your life is saved by the Northern Lights Guardian, a bright, radiant fox spirit that mingles with you and gives you supernatural powers – something every good dog deserves.
The puzzles of the game are quite simple. You will be taken from one part of the world to another, and you will usually be charged with removing some kind of obstacle in order to move forward. A combination of exploration and platforming (and a little supernatural help from your newly discovered fox friend) usually gets the job done. If you go through a transfigured environment, you enter the impact zone of those who disappeared thousands of years ago. Along the way, like a kind of hook for the fox, there is a collection of shamanic spirits that you can set free by finding and returning their respective sticks. It’s never as complicated as some players would like, but it’s clear from the start that the simple controls and mechanisms contribute to the overall gaming experience. Complex puzzles and fast-paced action don’t match Spirit of the North’s mood.
There is minimal text and no voice to guide the player, except for a special barking button to finally answer the age-old question: What does the fox say? This brings you firstly to the almost perfect piano accompaniment score – which highlights the events of the piece with an incredibly moving emotional context – and secondly to the absolute astonishment of the surroundings themselves. The general tone is calm and you feel incredibly small as you walk through these landscapes. They’re designed to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction, while leaving you plenty of room to slowly work your way through every detail of the campaign.
Unfortunately, the devil is in the details, and there are some things you have to leave out if you want the best possible experience with this title. The game was originally released for PlayStation 4 last November, but the graphics wouldn’t hurt to reach the port on the Nintendo Switch. Some textures seem blocked and displaced, and although the fox is able to run and jump at high speeds, your four-legged body can be quite wobbly to control during tighter platform parties. Overall, I would say that this mechanics is similar to that of similar independent games, but this hiccup is noticeably repetitive throughout the game.
The final touch to the campaign is a warning about the content. Although the game has an E rating, there is a rather sinister sequence at the beginning of the game in which you get injured and play an entire chapter like a fox that slowly sinks down and eventually freezes to death. This is the point in the story where The Guardian saves you, but everything in this sequence is dark and disturbing – accompanied by realistic groaning sounds and a swelling piano that contrasts with the uncomfortable slow tempo of the whole chapter. It’s certainly a nice emotional background for the story to come, but it’s something that can really strike a chord with people affected by animal suffering, which is a very common concern.
Although he has these flaws in him, it is undeniable that it is an incredible achievement to say so much with so little. Minimalist narration and presentation are indeed his strongest qualities, traversing the rise and fall of society in this incredibly convincing immersion in Icelandic folklore. It feels like Spirit of the North is an exciting project for Infuse Studios, with so much love and thought in every corner of the game.
Overview of the spirit of the North
- Graphs – 7/10
- Sound – 9/10
- Gameplay – 8/10
- Late call – 7/10
Final thoughts: GRAND
Despite its Indian origins, Spirit of the North seems to be a master class in atmosphere and what to do with it. Despite some remarkable rough edges, the world we are considering is beautiful, daring and needs to be explored.
Evan Rude is a student of journalism and an amateur gambling historian. His favorite Guitar Hero III song was Even Flow.
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